Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sharing Stories

Danticat's Krik? Krak! illustrates the power of story telling and the bond that exists between generations sharing the same history. The one bond that truly holds the Haitians together is their collective suffering and ability to pass their story on to those who will listen. In one of his letters, the boy on the boat notes that, "Some of the women sing and tell stories to eachother to appease the vomiting" (Danticat 9). Storytelling eases the pain of being at sea, and allows these women to escape the grim reality that they face. In one of her letters, the girl mentions that they "spend most of the day telling stories" and that if "someone says 'Krik?', you answer 'Krak!' (Danticat 14). This exchange functions as an invocation, in that it asks its listeners to fully immerse themselves in the story being told . The letters that the boy and girl write to eachother illustrate the power of written communication to heal and perhaps mentally or spiritually liberate those who are enslaved.

Josephine is able to remember her mother and her rituals performed every November due to the stories that have been passed on to her. In this chapter, the Madonna also functions as a common thread that serves as a bond between all of the women in prison. They place their hope in the state of the Madonna and the 'tears' that flow from her face help ease their pain. These women see power in the ability to pass something on to the next generation, whether it be a statue or a story.

The spoken word continues serve as as a healing device in ' A Wall of Fire Rising'. Even though Guy commits suicide, the play acts as a bond between him and his son while he is alive. Guy and Lili are very proud of their son when he recites the lines of his play. He says, "I call on everyone and anyone so that we shall all let out one piercing cry and that we may either live freely or we should die" (Danticat 71). These lines serve as a call to Haiti and all of humanity; they are not just lines from a play that he must memorize. His constant recitation of the lines from his play act as a therapy for the boy and his family, who are trapped by the evils of their own society. The father tries to free himself of injustice in the wrong way, whereas the boy uses the power of spoken word to make an impression on those around him. This stark contrast illustrates the generational difference that Danticat seems to be highlighting. The young have the power to change the way things are, and as each generation progresses, the story must act as a lesson, so that the evils of yesterday can be prevented.

Throughout this semester, I have noticed the importance of storytelling, in addition to diverse dialogue in general. Each of our books has touched upon the issue of interaction between generations and the importance of transformation through travel. Storytelling is an aid for this transformation that occurs when one leaves their home territory. The characters in our novels have only been able to transform themselves when they interact with others, regardless of the depth or positivity of that interaction. It is important to absorb and share experiences when we travel-not just the beautiful sights or food. We must allow the external to affect the internal. I think we can all learn a lesson from the Dean Moriarty or the 'pre-dragon transformation Eustace' type of traveler. The people that are only in it for themselves aren't going to get anything out of traveling, and in the end, they're not really going to experience the value of cultural difference.

When I travel to St. Mary's and volunteer there, I am exploring a realm completely different than my life here at Loyola, in addition to the life I live at home. Many of the kids from St. Mary's seem to lack the comfortable homelife and advice that I have been able to receive my entire life. There is nobody at home telling them what they should or should not do, and I think this is why there are so many disciplinary problems in the classrooms. The teachers do a terrific job of trying to keep order in the classroom, but oftentimes the children just refuse to behave. Their cries for attention have really left an impression on me, and every time I volunteer, I make sure to interact with each and every student as much as I possibly can. I know that I have lessons to offer them, even if they do not have an on older, more experienced person at home showing them the way. This sometimes seems like such a daunting task for me, but I know that my upbringing has instilled me with the responsibility to mentor these children the best that I can. The one thing that I have noticed about these kids throughout this fall semester is that they are desperate to tell their story and just to be heard. One of the kids I talked to has an older brother in jail and has seen kids doing drugs in his neighborhood. This is one of the first things he told me when he met me, so he was clearly eager to share his life with a stranger, which meant a lot. I am really flattered that these kids have allowed me into their lives, especially because they lack reasons to trust. It is especially uplifting for me to see this, because I have a hard time trusting people sometimes. I guess the one thing I have learned from my time at St. Mary's, is that if I can just be there to listen and to share, that is more than enough.

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